Straubhaar, Rolf. (2012). A broader definition of fragile states: The communities and schools of Brazil’s favelas. Current Issues in Comparative Education, 15(1): 41-51.

Though the existing literature on the favelas (or shantytowns) of Brazil thoroughly documents the chaotic and violent nature of life within them, few connections have been made between the literature on favelas, fragility and small states,
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  © 2012 Current Issues in Comparative Education, Teachers College, Columbia University, ALL RIGHTS RESERVED Current Issues in Comparative Education 15 (1) : 41-51. A Broader Denition of Fragile States:The Communities and Schools of Brazil’s Favelas Rolf Straubhaar University of California, Los AngelesThough the existing literature on the favelas (or shantytowns) of Brazil thoroughly documents thechaotic and violent nature of life within them, few connections have been made between the literatureon favelas  , fragility and small states, particularly with regard to the fragile state of educationalinstitutions in favelas . This article summarizes the primary ndings of prominent favela studies across the social sciences alongside the literature on fragility, drawing out a summative denition of fragility that easily applies to the context of education in Brazilian favelas. Primarily, this article argues that not only do the slums of Brazil qualify for classication as fragile small states, but sucha classication by prominent multilaterals would open these areas to donor funding for educational  programming that could greatly mitigate their fragility and advance educational equity, as occurs in other postconict and fragile settings around the world. Introduction The social, political and economic dynamics of the  favelas  , or illegal urban shantytowns that havematerialized in the hills around Rio de Janeiro and other urban centers throughout Brazil, havelong provided a fertile basis for academic research and analysis across disciplines. Political andhistorical analysis (Gay, 1994; Penglase, 2009) has explored the political rivalry between drugcartels, local politicians and grassroots neighborhood associations for control of the hearts andminds of   favela residents. Ethnographic work (Goldstein, 2003; Jones de Almeida, 2003; Leeds,1996; Pardue, 2004; Soares, 2000) has extensively documented the day-to-day life of   favela  residents, as well as the particular forms of language, music and culture which have developedtherein – both as responses to and as coping mechanisms for the economic and social inequalitiesexperienced by Brazil’s urban poor.However, despite the chaotic and violent nature of   favela life, few connections have been made between the literature on  favelas  , fragility and small states. In this article, I summarize the literature onfragility,drawingoutasummativedenitionoffragilityasaweaknessorlackofcapacityin local institutions (Mosselson, Wheaton, & Frisoli, 2009; Vallings & Torres, 2005) that – I argue– easily applies to the context of Brazilian  favelas  , as well as similar low-income slums across theglobe.Whilenotcurrentlyclassiedasindependentregionsinaformalsense,  favelas areoften ruled by local political actors (whether legal or extralegal) that exercise de facto sovereignty whichIargue,accordingtoBaldacchino(2012),qualifyBrazilianslumsforclassicationasfragilesmallormicro-states.Tosupportthisclassication,Ithensummarizetheprimaryndingsof prominent  favela studiesacrossthesocialsciences,highlightingthosendingswhichindicatethe precarious and fragile educational, political, and social institutions in  favelas . Iarguethatsuchaclassicationbyprominentmultilateralswouldopen  favelas to donor fundingthat could greatly mitigate their fragility (especially with regard to education), as occurs in other postconictandfragilesettingsaroundtheworld.Ifurtherarguethateducation  –  particularlyeducational programming that promotes community-level political participation –  is a key type of donor support that would ease fragility in this context. To do so, I draw upon extensive literaturethat documents Brazilian popular participation efforts, especially those based in Freirean  42 Current Issues in Comparative EducationStraubhaar educationalmodels,andtheirmitigationoffragilityinlow-incomeareasofBrazil.Insum,Iusetheliteratureonfragilityandsmallstates,favelalife,andpopulareducationinBraziltoarguethattheclassicationof  favelas as fragile micro-states by multilaterals could lead to donor attentionthat, if focused properly on educational programs promoting popular participation, could greatly improvetheprecariouspoliticalandeconomicstatusofBrazil’surbanpoor.   Fragility: A Review of the Literature Though “fragility” is a standard term in the development literature, applied primarily to states thatarerecoveringfromsomeformofconictornaturaldisaster,Mosselsonetal.(2009)notethatthereisnostandarddenitionof“fragility”or“fragilestates”(p.1).However,commonthreadsarisewhenworkingdenitionsusedbyinstitutionsandscholarsarecompared. At its most basic, fragility is an inability to provide basic services, whether due to a lack of politicalwill or a lack of institutional capacity (Mosselson et al., 2009, p. 2; see also Rose & Greeley, 2006, p. 5-7).Usingthisdenition,Brazilian  favelas denitelycountasafragilesetting,duetothelackof state-provided security as well as the low quality of most existent state services, notably education. However,localizedsettingslike  favelas donotmeetmostorganizationaldenitionsoffragility,assuchdenitionsarecurrentlyverystate-centric.Indeed,untilrecentlytheterm“fragility”has  been used less often than “fragile states” (Mosselson et al., 2009, p. 4). Mosselson et al. (2009) explainwhy,statingthatitisacommoncommitmentbydonorsandorganizationsto“[work] alongside governments” towards “state-building and governance priorities” (p. 2) that leads themto focus on fragility at the state level. In other words, the reasoning for a state-level focus seems to  betwo-fold:rst,state-buildingiswheredonorsandorganizationshavethemostexperienceand expertise, due to their historical commitment to such. Second, there is the issue of receptivity on thepartoftherecipientstate.Statesareusuallynoteagertobelabeledas‘fragile.’Assuch,states that are not wholly fragile –   but rather experience pockets of fragility –  are often less willing toaccept this label, especially since the funding that such labeling makes possible does not alwaysreliably accompany it, making the decision something of a political gamble (Brown, 2006).Due to this phenomenon, Mosselson et al. (2009) note that many donors are moving towards the conceptoffragilityratherthanfragilestates,adenitionthatallowsdonorsandorganizations to “move beyond the emphasis on governments” (p. 4). A term like fragility can be applied onthe regional or local level as well as the state, and as such can be more widely applicable and useful.TheUnitedKingdom’sDepartmentforInternationalDevelopment,orDFID(2005),hasreectedthisgeneralshiftwiththeiruseofthemoregeneralterm“difcultenvironments.”Such open, dynamic terms allow more general application, especially pertinent to settings which areexperiencing strong growth at the state level while maintaining pockets of extreme inequality andfragility,likeBrazil. Building on the argument that current global conditions require some“creative political economy”that moves beyond state-centric models (Baldacchino & Milne, 2008),Baldacchino (2012) providesa framework within which  favelas and other sub-national areas can be seen as small states untothemselves, able to exercise some degree of autonomy and sovereignty. According to Baldacchino (2012),theglobalizedandpostcolonialinternationalrelationshipsofthe20thandearly21st centuries extend beyond traditional national boundaries to include subnational areas that donot claim independent national sovereignty in the traditional sense. While traditionally “youeither are sovereign or you are not” has been the standard for statehood, “this rule of thumbis increasingly found wanting in the 21st century” (Baldacchino, 2012, p. 239). As Baldacchino  Current Issues in Comparative Education 43 A Broader Denition of Fragile States (2012) further explains, Whatisevidentisthatsubnationalunitscantargetspecicfunctionsandpowers (of sovereignty), which they then seek to secure...Although always dependent oncontext, all the functions and powers typically associated with sovereignty have been up for negotiation. (p. 245) WithinaBrazilian  favela context, there are a number of local political actors that have historicallynegotiated a certain degree of de facto sovereignty, as will be explored more fully in the nextsection. As semi-autonomous micro-states exercising degrees of de facto sovereignty,  favelas    becomedefensiblyclassiableasfragileevenusingamoretraditionalstate-centricmodelof fragility.Vallings and Torres (2005) provide a fragility framework that is particularly applicable and usefulin a  favela micro-state context. To Vallings and Torres (2005), the primary driver of fragility isweak political institutions and a lack of political participation. That is, “in areas where [state-levelpolitical institutions] are continuously changing, or in a state of transition...there is only a weak system of institutional coherence, so that individual parts of that system fall open to abuse bypowerful groups or interests” (Vallings & Torres, 2005, p. 9). This lack of institutional coherenceis what creates fragility. Asexempliedbytheliteratureon  favelas exploredinthenextsection,Brazilian  favelas are aclear example of such institutional instability. Through a review of the extensive social scienceliterature on life in  favelas  , the following section will illustrate how the continuous power struggle between the police and drug cartels described by Penglase (2009) as “ordered disorder” leadsto the “abuse by powerful groups or interests” described by Vallings and Torres (2005, p. 9).Similarly, the variously agitated and banal environment in  favela schools that will be described  byGuareschi(1998)clearlydisplaysthatBrazilianeducationcanepitomizeVallingsandTorres’(2005)denitionofa“weakinstitution.” Life in Brazilian Favelas The  favelas ofBrazilareplaguedbyaconstantstateofconictandtensionthatPenglase(2009) described as a sort of “ordered disorder” or purposeful “(in)security” (p. 47) provided alternately  bythestatepolice,localdrugtrafckers,andlocalcommunityleaders.Extensiveliteratureon favela life (Arias, 2004; Gay, 1994; Leeds, 1996; Leeds & Leeds, 1977; Zaluar, 1998) addresses this“(in)security,” much of it from a partially historical perspective. These works will be discussed rst,followedbyworksthatfocusoncurrentconditions –  particularly the state of education –  in Brazil’sslums. Leeds (1996) provides an introductory history of how  favelas developed as a form of affordable low-incomehousing,inresponsetothegrowingneedforcheaplaborinRiodeJaneiro.Ofcially illegal but tolerated by the state due to the labor they provided,  favelas were seen as acceptable solong as they remained invisible. This invisible status granted by the state laid the groundwork for  favelas to develop into what Leeds (1996) calls the most “visible and tangible form of the violence usedbythestate”againstBrazil’surbanpoor(p.50). Several other authors, notably Gay (1994) and Zaluar (1998), build upon Leeds (1996) by focusingon the role of neighborhood associations, or associações de morro (AMs), in the formal establishment anddevelopmentofBrazilianslums.Inthelanguageofsmallstatejurisdictionsexploredearlier  44 Current Issues in Comparative EducationStraubhaar  by Baldacchino (2012), AMs are one of the primary actors that have endowed  favelas with a senseof relative autonomy and sovereignty.Since  favelas rstbegantogrowinthehillsaroundRiodeJaneiro,AMstypicallyaroseorganicallyassmallgroupsofneighborhoodleaderswouldorganizethemselvestopetitionlocalgovernmentforlegaltitletotheirnewlyseizedland.Thisroleasbrokerbetween  favela communities and localpoliticians granted AM leaders a great deal of political strength (Leeds & Leeds, 1977). However,as basic infrastructural needs for utilities, roads, and schools were eventually met, the importanceof AMs began to wane (Gay, 1994; Zaluar, 1998).Over time, AMs were replaced in their role as political brokers by drug cartels that increasinglydeveloped patron-client relationships with local politicians and police (Arias, 2004). AMs were notcompletelyreplacedandremainedimportantcommunitygures –  however, their survivaloften meant their inclusion in or association with the drug trade (Gay, 1994). It is this gradualgrowth in drug activity within  favelas  , and the accompanying violence and instability, which has brought  favela life to its current fragile state.There are many excellent qualitative  favela studies which document the fragility of slum life due totheviolentrelationshipbetweendrugcartelsandpolice,inwhichbothsidesghtforthe hearts and minds of   favela residents.Holloway(1993),inaqualitativestudyofRiodeJaneiro’s police force, describes the role Rio police see for themselves as providers of order for the greaterpopulation of Rio, justifying their violent containment and repression of drug activity in  favelas  as necessary for the greater good. Garotinho and his co-authors (1998) provide an analysis of howthis has reinforced what they call “criminal legitimacy”: as police violence became pervasive enoughtoseemarbitrary,localresidentsturnedtodrugtrafckersas de facto community leaders.Several other authors use qualitative data gathered in various  favelas to document the samepattern. Goldstein (2003), in a larger ethnographic work on race and sexuality in a particular  favela, notes that local drug gangs provide “a parallel or alternative rule of law” (p. 225) thatsettles local concerns due to a lack of resident faith in the police. Soares (2000), in an excellentPortuguese-language  favela ethnography,emphasizestheperceptionof  favela residents that drug trafckers,whiledespotic,provideorderthatstronglycontrastswithseeminglyarbitrarypolice violence. Leeds (1996), in her ethnography on the cocaine trade in one  favela  , also highlights theperception by  favela dwellers “that the formal justice system does not work for them [and] has leda portion of the population to accept an alternative justice system” provided by drug cartels (p.62). Perlman (2006), in a synthesis of ethnographic data collected over a 40 year period in a single  favela  ,notesthatthemarginalizationoftheurbanpoorhasonlyincreasedoverthattimeframe due to increasing drug-related violence and a lack of opportunities for democratic participation.Particularly, several studies focus on the unstable and inequitable nature of education in urban  favelas . In her qualitative study of adolescent students in a  favela school, Guareschi (1998) notes thedegreetowhichherparticipantsinternalize(whilestillattemptingtoresist)messagesofunderachievement,marginalizationanddeviancereceivedinschoolsettings.Brazilianurbanadolescentsaremarginalizedbyformaleducationalstructures,asituationwhichhasprompted the growth of alternative educational projects and community schools based around popular culturalformssuchaship-hop(Pardue,2004)andtraditionalAfro-Brazilianmusicanddance (Jones de Almeida, 2003). LookingatBrazilianeducationcomparativelywitheducationalsystemsinotherLatinAmerican countries, Vegas and Petrow (2008) point out that, although democratically governed since 1985,  Current Issues in Comparative Education 45 A Broader Denition of Fragile States Brazilhasstruggledtotransitiontoajustsociety.Forthelast60years,expandedopportunitiesineducationhavebeenasignicantfactorinsocialmobility.However,muchofthisexpandedopportunitysprangfromprivatizedchannelsdeniedtomarginalizedgroups,soeducationalinequalitypersistsamongracialminoritiesandlow-incomeBrazilians,particularlyinurban  favelas . ConsequentlyinBrazil,asinmuchofLatinAmerica,incomeinequalitycorrelatespositivelywith educational inequality (Vegas & Petrow, 2008).Several prominent articles provide compelling theoretical frames in which the dynamic of violence, patronageandeducationalinequalityfoundinBrazilian  favelas can be understood. Kerstenetskyand Santos (2009) –  economists using a capabilities approach, or a development framework thatfocuses on what individual actors in a given setting are able to do –  trytocharacterize  favela  life as poor due to a lack of freedom that results from insecurity and violence. This argument aroseinresponsetoseveralBrazilianeconomiststhathavearguedthat  favela residents cannot betruly considered “poor” in an absolute sense when their average salaries are compared globally(see Silva, 2005; Valadares, 2005). Kerstenetsky and Santos (2009) make the point that  favelas are“freedom-poor” due to their instability and lack of access to quality public services (particularlyeducation), even if average incomes have reached a level that could be considered above poverty. Rodrigues(2006)attemptstoexplaintherootsofBrazilianurbanviolence,inequalityandinsecurity  by tying such to a perceived lack of civil democracy. Basing his claims in survey data gatheredin several  favelas where various strategies have been used to increase stability, Rodrigues (2006)notes that attempts to build the legitimacy of public-level institutions (such as the neighborhood policeandlocalelectedofcials)havehadpositiveeffectsonperceptionsofsecurity,whileeffortstobuildsocialbondsattheprivatelevelhadnosuchperceivedeffect.WhileRodrigues’(2006)ndingsareinteresting,theyarelimitedduetotheirspecictemporalandspatialcontext, especially given the fraught relations with police noted by most  favela researchers.As the last of the reviewed theoretical pieces, Penglase (2009) coins the term “(in)stability” to refer totheabilityofdrugtraderstomaintainpoliticalandsocialcontrolthroughalternatelyinicting local violence and providing local protection. In this sense, this author addresses the ambiguityof drug cartel control with a level of nuance that is lacking in other works. Penglase (2009) notes thatsovereigntyisdeterminedjustasmuchby“theabilitytoinstituteandsuspend‘normality’” (p. 47) as the ability to enact or enforce law. By deliberately creating instability and disorder,and interrupting the normal functioning of schools and other public institutions, drug gangs normalizesuchbehaviorandbysodoing“naturalizetheirpower”(Penglase,2009,p.51).With this theoretical construct of “(in)stability,” Penglase (2009) provides a compelling explanatoryframework for how drug cartels can maintain power through the reinforcement of fragility. Clearly,giventhebroaderdenitionoffragilityandmicro-statesdescribedearlier(Baldacchino,2012;Mosselsonetal.,2009),thepictureofBrazilian  favelas and their schools captured by Penglase(2009) and others reveals these contexts to be fragile environments that act as semi-autonomous smallstates.Identicationas“fragile”micro-statescouldhelpopenBrazilian  favela communitiesto an immense amount of donor wealth, at least with regards to global education funds like the FastTrackInitiative(Sperling,2007),thatcouldhelptoend“the[continual]marginalizationofthe[Brazilian]urbanpoor”(Perlman,2006,p.154)witnessedbycountlessresearchersoverthelastcentury.Thefollowingsectionwillreviewtheliteratureoneducationandfragility,specicallyinaBraziliancontext,soastobuildtheargumentforinvestmentineducationasameanstomitigatethefragilityexperiencedbyBrazil’surbanpoor.
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